Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

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MSNBC.com uses slideshow to tell tale of missing heiress

March 4, 2010

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Bill Dedman of msnbc.com used a 47-photo slideshow with a narrative thread to tell the mysterious tale of the missing Huguette Clark.

Bill Dedman of msnbc.com tries a different storytelling approach to ask the question: “Why have the mansions of one of America’s richest women been vacant for decades?”

Dedman tells the Investigative Reporters and Editors’ listserv:  “We could have told this story in the traditional 2,500-word story form, but instead we put it into a slideshow. Still, it’s 2,500 words, but the reader response has been very good: more than 34 million page views so far.”

He adds that msnbc.com also received e-mails from 400 readers, demonstrating that many of us are still touched by picture books.

When you have the photos to sustain it, try using a slideshow for in-depth stories.

“There’s a voracious audience demand for slideshows,” says John Leach, visiting professor of journalism at Cal Poly State University and managing partner at Digital Strategies LLC. “Too often people build slideshows with a photo and a caption. You have to look at it as an overall storytelling experience informed through the course of 10, 20 or 50 slides.”

While he was a managing editor at The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com, he says slideshows grew from 5 percent of Web traffic to 28 percent in five years.

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